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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, by Epictetus
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Title: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus
Translator: Hastings Crossley
Release Date: February 5, 2006 [EBook #871]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GOLDEN SAYINGS OF EPICTETUS ***
Produced by David P. Steelman and David Widger
THE GOLDEN SAYINGS OF EPICTETUS
Translated and Arranged by Hastings Crossley
Are these the only works of Providence within us? What words suffice to
praise or set them forth? Had we but understanding, should we ever cease
hymning and blessing the Divine Power, both openly and in secret, and
telling of His gracious gifts? Whether digging or ploughing or eating,
should we not sing the hymn to God:--
Great is God, for that He hath given us such instruments to till
the ground withal: Great is God, for that He hath given us hands and
the power of swallowing and digesting; of unconsciously growing and
breathing while we sleep!
Thus should we ever have sung; yea and this, the grandest and divinest
hymn of all:--
Great is God, for that He hath given us a mind to apprehend these
things, and duly to use them!
What then! seeing that most of you are blinded, should there not be some
one to fill this place, and sing the hymn to God on behalf of all
men? What else can I that am old and lame do but sing to God? Were I
a nightingale, I should do after the manner of a nightingale. Were I
a swan, I should do after the manner of a swan. But now, since I am a
reasonable being, I must sing to God: that is my work: I do it, nor will
I desert this my post, as long as it is granted me to hold it; and upon
you too I call to join in this self-same hymn.
How then do men act? As though one returning to his country who had
sojourned for the night in a fair inn, should be so captivated thereby
as to take up his abode there.
"Friend, thou hast forgotten thine intention! This was not thy
destination, but only lay on the way thither."
"Nay, but it is a proper place."
"And how many more of the sort there may be; only to pass through
upon thy way! Thy purpose was to return to thy country; to relieve thy
kinsmen's fears for thee; thyself to discharge the duties of a citizen;
to marry a wife, to beget offspring, and to fill the appointed round of
office. Thou didst not come to choose out what places are most pleasant;
but rather to return to that wherein thou wast born and where wert
appointed to ba a citizen."
Try to enjoy the great festival of life with other men.
But I have one whom I must please, to whom I must be subject, whom I
must obey:--God, and those who come next to Him. He hath entrusted me
with myself: He hath made my will subject to myself alone and given me
rules for the right use thereof.
Rufus used to say, If you have leisure to praise me, what I say is
naught. In truth he spoke in such wise, that each of us who sat there,
though that some one had accused him to Rufus:--so surely did he lay his
finger on the very deeds we did: so surely display the faults of each
before his very eyes.
But what saith God?--"Had it been possible, Epictetus, I would have made
both that body of thine and thy possessions free and unimpeded, but as
it is, be not deceived:--it is not thine own; it is but finely tempered
clay. Since then this I could not do, I have given thee a portion of
Myself, in the power of desiring and declining and of pursuing and
avoiding, and is a word the power of dealing with the things of sense.
And if thou neglect not this, but place all that thou hast therein, thou
shalt never be let or hindered; thou shalt never lament; thou shalt
not blame or flatter any. What then? Seemth this to thee a little
thing?"--God forbid!--"Be content then therewith!"
And so I pray the Gods.
What saith Antisthenes? Hast thou never heard?--
It is a kingly thing, O Cyrus, to do well and to be evil spoken of.
"Aye, but to debase myself thus were unworthy of me."
"That," said Epictetus, "is for you to consider, not for me. You know
yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will
sell yourself. For men sell themselves at various prices. This was why,
when Florus was deliberating whether he should appear at Nero's shows,
taking part in the performance himself, Agrippinus replied, 'But why
do not you appear?' he answered, 'Because I do not even consider the
question.' For the man who has once stooped to consider such questions,
and to reckon up the value of external things, is not far from
forgetting what manner of man he is. Why, what is it that you ask me?
Is death preferable, or life? I reply, Life. Pain or pleasure? I reply,
"Well, but if I do not act, I shall lose my head."
"Then go and act! But for my part I will not act."
"Because you think yourself but one among the many threads which make
up the texture of the doublet. You should aim at being like men in
general--just as your thread has no ambition either to be anything
distinguished compared with the other threads. But I desire to be the
purple--that small and shining part which makes the rest seem fair and
beautiful. Why then do you bid me become even as the multitude? Then
were I no longer the purple."
If a man could be throughly penetrated, as he ought, with this thought,
that we are all in an especial manner sprung from God, and that God
is the Father of men as well as of Gods, full surely he would never
conceive aught ignoble or base of himself. Whereas if Cęsar were to
adopt you, your haughty looks would be intolerable; will you not be
elated at knowing that you are the son of God? Now however it is not
so with us: but seeing that in our birth these two things are
commingled--the body which we share with the animals, and the Reason and
Thought which we share with the Gods, many decline towards this unhappy
kinship with the dead, few rise to the blessed kinship with the Divine.
Since then every one must deal with each thing according to the view
which he forms about it, those few who hold that they are born for
fidelity, modesty, and unerring sureness in dealing with the things
of sense, never conceive aught base or ignoble of themselves: but the
multitude the contrary. Why, what am I?--A wretched human creature; with
this miserable flesh of mine. Miserable indeed! but you have something
better than that paltry flesh of yours. Why then cling to the one, and
neglect the other?
Thou art but a poor soul laden with a lifeless body.
The other day I had an iron lamp placed beside my household gods. I
heard a noise at the door and on hastening down found my lamp carried
off. I reflected that the culprit was in no very strange case.
"Tomorrow, my friend," I said, "you will find an earthenware lamp; for a
man can only lose what he has."
The reason why I lost my lamp was that the thief was superior to me in
vigilance. He paid however this price for the lamp, that in exchange
for it he consented to become a thief: in exchange for it, to become
But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His
works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them.
Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the
brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature
leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a
manner of life that is in harmony with herself.
See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things.
You journey to Olympia to see the work of Phidias; and each of you holds
it a misfortune not to have beheld these things before you die. Whereas
when there is no need even to take a journey, but you are on the spot,
with the works before you, have you no care to contemplate and study
Will you not then perceive either who you are or unto what end you were
born: or for what purpose the power of contemplation has been bestowed
"Well, but in life there are some things disagreeable and hard to bear."
And are there none at Olympia? Are you not scorched by the heat? Are you
not cramped for room? Have you not to bathe with discomfort? Are you not
drenched when it rains? Have you not to endure the clamor and shouting
and such annoyances as these? Well, I suppose you set all this over
against the splendour of the spectacle and bear it patiently. What then?
have you not received greatness of heart, received courage, received
fortitude? What care I, if I am great of heart, for aught that can come
to pass? What shall cast me down or disturb me? What shall seem painful?
Shall I not use the power to the end for which I received it, instead of
moaning and wailing over what comes to pass?
If what philosophers say of the kinship of God and Man be true, what
remains for men to do but as Socrates did:--never, when asked one's
country, to answer, "I am an Athenian or a Corinthian," but "I am a
citizen of the world."
He that hath grasped the administration of the World, who hath learned
that this Community, which consists of God and men, is the foremost and
mightiest and most comprehensive of all:--that from God have descended
the germs of life, not to my father only and father's father, but to all
things that are born and grow upon the earth, and in an especial manner
to those endowed with Reason (for those only are by their nature fitted
to hold communion with God, being by means of Reason conjoined with
Him)--why should not such an one call himself a citizen of the world?
Why not a son of God? Why should he fear aught that comes to pass among
men? Shall kinship with Cęsar, or any other of the great at Rome, be
enough to hedge men around with safety and consideration, without a
thought of apprehension: while to have God for our Maker, and Father,
and Kinsman, shall not this set us free from sorrows and fears?
I do not think that an old fellow like me need have been sitting here
to try and prevent your entertaining abject notions of yourselves, and
talking of yourselves in an abject and ignoble way: but to prevent there
being by chance among you any such young men as, after recognising their
kindred to the Gods, and their bondage in these chains of the body and
its manifold necessities, should desire to cast them off as burdens
too grievous to be borne, and depart their true kindred. This is the
struggle in which your Master and Teacher, were he worthy of the name,
should be engaged. You would come to me and say: "Epictetus, we can no
longer endure being chained to this wretched body, giving food and
drink and rest and purification: aye, and for its sake forced to be
subservient to this man and that. Are these not things indifferent and
nothing to us? Is it not true that death is no evil? Are we not in
a manner kinsmen of the Gods, and have we not come from them? Let us
depart thither, whence we came: let us be freed from these chains that
confine and press us down. Here are thieves and robbers and tribunals:
and they that are called tyrants, who deem that they have after a
fashion power over us, because of the miserable body and what appertains
to it. Let us show them that they have power over none."
And to this I reply:--
"Friends, wait for God. When He gives the signal, and releases you from
this service, then depart to Him. But for the present, endure to dwell
in the place wherein He hath assigned you your post. Short indeed is the
time of your habitation therein, and easy to those that are minded. What
tyrant, what robber, what tribunals have any terrors for those who thus
esteem the body and all that belong to it as of no account? Stay; depart
not rashly hence!"
Something like that is what should pass between a teacher and ingenuous
youths. As it is, what does pass? The teacher is a lifeless body, and
you are lifeless bodies yourselves. When you have had enough to eat
today, you sit down and weep about tomorrow's food. Slave! if you
have it, well and good; if not, you will depart: the door is open--why
lament? What further room is there for tears? What further occasion for
flattery? Why should one envy another? Why should you stand in awe of
them that have much or are placed in power, especially if they be also
strong and passionate? Why, what should they do to us? What they can do,
we will not regard: what does concern us, that they cannot do. Who then
shall rule one that is thus minded?
Seeing this then, and noting well the faculties which you have, you
should say,--"Send now, O God, any trial that Thou wilt; lo, I have
means and powers given me by Thee to acquit myself with honour through
whatever comes to pass!"--No; but there you sit, trembling for fear
certain things should come to pass, and moaning and groaning and
lamenting over what does come to pass. And then you upbraid the Gods.
Such meanness of spirit can have but one result--impiety.
Yet God has not only given us these faculties by means of which we may
bear everything that comes to pass without being crushed or depressed
thereby; but like a good King and Father, He has given us this without
let or hindrance, placed wholly at our own disposition, without
reserving to Himself any power of impediment or restraint. Though
possessing all these things free and all you own, you do not use them!
you do not perceive what it is you have received nor whence it comes,
but sit moaning and groaning; some of you blind to the Giver, making no
acknowledgment to your Benefactor; others basely giving themselves to
complaints and accusations against God.
Yet what faculties and powers you possess for attaining courage and
greatness of heart, I can easily show you; what you have for upbraiding
and accusation, it is for you to show me!
How did Socrates bear himself in this regard? How else than as became
one who was fully assured that he was the kinsman of Gods?
If God had made that part of His own nature which He severed from
Himself and gave to us, liable to be hindered or constrained either by
Himself or any other, He would not have been God, nor would He have been
taking care of us as He ought . . . . If you choose, you are free; if
you choose, you need blame no man--accuse no man. All things will be at
once according to your mind and according to the Mind of God.
Petrifaction is of two sorts. There is petrifaction of the
understanding; and also of the sense of shame. This happens when a
man obstinately refuses to acknowledge plain truths, and persists in
maintaining what is self-contradictory. Most of us dread mortification
of the body, and would spare no pains to escape anything of that kind.
But of mortification of the soul we are utterly heedless. With regard,
indeed, to the soul, if a man is in such a state as to be incapable of
following or understanding anything, I grant you we do think him in a
bad way. But mortification of the sense of shame and modesty we go so
far as to dub strength of mind!
If we were as intent upon our business as the old fellows at Rome are
upon what interests them, we too might perhaps accomplish something.
I know a man older than I am, now Superintendent of the Corn-market at
Rome, and I remember when he passed through this place on his way back
from exile, what an account he gave me of his former life, declaring
that for the future, once home again, his only care should be to pass
his remaining years in quiet and tranquility. "For how few years have
I left!" he cried. "That," I said, "you will not do; but the moment the
scent of Rome is in your nostrils, you will forget it all; and if you
can but gain admission to Court, you will be glad enough to elbow your
way in, and thank God for it." "Epictetus," he replied, "if ever you
find me setting as much as one foot within the Court, think what you
will of me."
Well, as it was, what did he do? Ere ever he entered the city, he was
met by a despatch from the Emperor. He took it, and forgot the whole
of his resolutions. From that moment, he has been piling one thing upon
another. I should like to be beside him to remind him of what he said
when passing this way, and to add, How much better a prophet I am than
What then? do I say man is not made for an active life? Far from it!
. . . But there is a great difference between other men's occupations and
ours. . . . A glance at theirs will make it clear to you. All day long
they do nothing but calculate, contrive, consult how to wring their
profit out of food-stuffs, farm-plots and the like. . . . Whereas, I
entreat you to learn what the administration of the World is, and what
place a Being endowed with reason holds therein: to consider what you
are yourself, and wherein your Good and Evil consists.
A man asked me to write to Rome on his behalf who, as most people
thought, had met with misfortune; for having been before wealthy and
distinguished, he had afterwards lost all and was living here. So I
wrote about him in a humble style. He however on reading the letter
returned it to me, with the words: "I asked for your help, not for your
pity. No evil has happened unto me."
True instruction is this:--to learn to wish that each thing should come
to pass as it does. And how does it come to pass? As the Disposer has
disposed it. Now He has disposed that there should be summer and winter,
and plenty and dearth, and vice and virtue, and all such opposites, for
the harmony of the whole.
Have this thought ever present with thee, when thou losest any outward
thing, what thou gainest in its stead; and if this be the more precious,
say not, I have suffered loss.
Concerning the Gods, there are who deny the very existence of the
Godhead; others say that it exists, but neither bestirs nor concerns
itself nor has forethought for anything. A third party attribute to it
existence and forethought, but only for great and heavenly matters, not
for anything that is on earth. A fourth party admit things on earth as
well as in heaven, but only in general, and not with respect to each
individual. A fifth, of whom were Ulysses and Socrates are those that
I move not without Thy knowledge!
Considering all these things, the good and true man submits his
judgement to Him that administers the Universe, even as good citizens to
the law of the State. And he that is being instructed should come thus
minded:--How may I in all things follow the Gods; and, How may I rest
satisfied with the Divine Administration; and, How may I become free?
For he is free for whom all things come to pass according to his will,
and whom none can hinder. What then, is freedom madness? God forbid. For
madness and freedom exist not together.
"But I wish all that I desire to come to pass and in the manner that I
--You are mad, you are beside yourself. Know you not that Freedom is a
glorious thing and of great worth? But that what I desired at random I
should wish at random to come to pass, so far from being noble, may well
be exceeding base.
You must know that it is no easy thing for a principle to become a man's
own, unless each day he maintain it and hear it maintained, as well as
work it out in life.
You must know that it is no easy thing for a principle to become a man's
own, unless each day he maintain it and hear it maintained, as well as
work it out in life.
What then is the chastisement of those who accept it not? To be as they
are. Is any discontented with being alone? let him be in solitude. Is
any discontented with his parents? let him be a bad son, and lament. Is
any discontented with his children? let him be a bad father.--"Throw
him into prision!"--What prision?--Where he is already: for he is there
against his will; and wherever a man is against his will, that to him is
a prision. Thus Socrates was not in prision, since he was there with his
Knowest thou what a speck thou art in comparison with the
Universe?---That is, with respect to the body; since with respect to
Reason, thou art not inferior to the Gods, nor less than they. For the
greatness of Reason is not measured by length or height, but by the
resolves of the mind. Place then thy happiness in that wherein thou art
equal to the Gods.
Asked how a man might eat acceptably to the Gods, Epictetus replied:--If
when he eats, he can be just, cheerful, equable, temperate, and orderly,
can he not thus eat acceptably to the Gods? But when you call for warm
water, and your slave does not answer, or when he answers brings it
lukewarm, or is not even found to be in the house at all, then not to be
vexed nor burst with anger, is not that acceptable to the Gods?
"But how can one endure such people?"
Slave, will you not endure your own brother, that has God to his
forefather, even as a son sprung from the same stock, and of the same
high descent as yourself? And if you are stationed in a high position,
are you therefor forthwith set up for a tyrant? Remember who you are,
and whom you rule, that they are by nature your kinsmen, your brothers,
the offspring of God.
"But I paid a price for them, not they for me."
Do you see whither you are looking--down to the earth, to the pit, to
those despicable laws of the dead? But to the laws of the Gods you do
When we are invited to a banquet, we take what is set before us; and
were one to call upon his host to set fish upon the table or sweet
things, he would be deemed absurd. Yet in a word, we ask the Gods for
what they do not give; and that, although they have given us so many
Asked how a man might convince himself that every single act of his was
under the eye of God, Epictetus answered:--
"Do you not hold that things on earth and things in heaven are
continuous and in unison with each other?"
"I do," was the reply.
"Else how should the trees so regularly, as though by God's command,
at His bidding flower; at His bidding send forth shoots, bear fruit and
ripen it; at His bidding let it fall and shed their leaves, and folded
up upon themselves lie in quietness and rest? How else, as the Moon
waxes and wanes, as the Sun approaches and recedes, can it be that such
vicissitude and alternation is seen in earthly things?
"If then all things that grow, nay, our own bodies, are thus bound up
with the whole, is not this still truer of our souls? And if our souls
are bound up and in contact with God, as being very parts and fragments
plucked from Himself, shall He not feel every movement of theirs as
though it were His own, and belonging to His own nature?"
"But," you say, "I cannot comprehend all this at once."
"Why, who told you that your powers were equal to God's?"
Yet God hath placed by the side of each a man's own Guardian Spirit, who
is charged to watch over him--a Guardian who sleeps not nor is deceived.
For to what better or more watchful Guardian could He have committed
which of us? So when you have shut the doors and made a darkness within,
remember never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone, but
God is within, and your Guardian Spirit, and what light do they need to
behold what you do? To this God you also should have sworn allegiance,
even as soldiers unto Cęsar. They, when their service is hired, swear
to hold the life of Cęsar dearer than all else: and will you not swear
your oath, that are deemed worthy of so many and great gifts? And will
you not keep your oath when you have sworn it? And what oath will you
swear? Never to disobey, never to arraign or murmur at aught that comes
to you from His hand: never unwillingly to do or suffer aught that
necessity lays upon you.
"Is this oath like theirs?"
They swear to hold no other dearer than Cęsar: you, to hold our true
selves dearer than all else beside.
"How shall my brother cease to be wroth with me?"
Bring him to me, and I will tell him. But to thee I have nothing to say
about his anger.
When one took counsel of Epictetus, saying, "What I seek is this, how
even though my brother be not reconciled to me, I may still remain as
Nature would have me to be," he replied: "All great things are slow of
growth; nay, this is true even of a grape or of a fig. If then you say
to me now, I desire a fig, I shall answer, It needs time: wait till it
first flower, then cast its blossom, then ripen. Whereas then the fruit
of the fig-tree reaches not maturity suddenly nor yet in a single hour,
do you nevertheless desire so quickly, and easily to reap the fruit of
the mind of man?--Nay, expect it not, even though I bade you!"
Epaphroditus had a shoemaker whom he sold as being good-for-nothing.
This fellow, by some accident, was afterwards purchased by one of
Cęsar's men, and became a shoemaker to Cęsar. You should have seen
what respect Epaphroditus paid him then. "How does the good Felicion?
Kindly let me know!" And if any of us inquired, "What is Epaphroditus
doing?" the answer was, "He is consulting about so and so with
Felicion."--Had he not sold him as good-for-nothing? Who had in a trice
converted him into a wiseacre?
This is what comes of holding of importance anything but the things that
depend on the Will.
What you shun enduring yourself, attempt not to impose on others. You
shun slavery--beware of enslaving others! If you can endure to do that,
one would thing you had been once upon a time a slave yourself. For Vice
has nothing in common with virtue, nor Freedom with slavery.
Has a man been raised to tribuneship? Every one that he meets
congratulates him. One kisses him on the eyes, another on the neck,
while the slaves kiss his hands. He goes home to find torches burning;
he ascends to the Capitol to sacrifice.--Who ever sacrificed for having
had right desires; for having conceived such inclinations as Nature
would have him? In truth we thank the Gods for that wherein we place our
A man was talking to me to-day about the priesthood of Augustus. I said
to him, "Let the thing go, my good Sir; you will spend a good deal to no
"Well, but my name will be inserted in all documents and contracts."
"Will you be standing there to tell those that read them, That is my
name written there? And even if you could now be there in every case,
what will you do when you are dead?"
"At all events my name will remain."
"Inscribe it on a stone and it will remain just as well. And think,
beyond Nicopolis what memory of you will there be?"
"But I shall have a golden wreath to wear."
"If you must have a wreath, get a wreath of roses and put it on; you
will look more elegant!"
Above all, remember that the door stands open. Be not more fearful than
children; but as they, when they weary of the game, cry, "I will play
no more," even so, when thou art in the like case, cry, "I will play no
more" and depart. But if thou stayest, make no lamentation.
Is there smoke in the room? If it be slight, I remain; if grievous,
I quit it. For you must remember this and hold it fast, that the door
"You shall not dwell at Nicopolis!"
Well and good.
"Nor at Athens."
Then I will not dwell at Athens either.
"Nor at Rome."
Nor at Rome either.
"You shall dwell in Gyara!"
Well: but to dwell in Gyara seems to me like a grievous smoke; I depart
to a place where none can forbid me to dwell: that habitation is open
unto all! As for the last garment of all, that is the poor body; beyond
that, none can do aught unto me. This why Demetrius said to Nero: "You
threaten me with death; it is Nature who threatens you!"
The beginning of philosophy is to know the condition of one's own mind.
If a man recognises that this is in a weakly state, he will not then
want to apply it to questions of the greatest moment. As it is, men who
are not fit to swallow even a morsel, buy whole treatises and try to
devour them. Accordingly they either vomit them up again, or suffer from
indigestion, whence come gripings, fluxions, and fevers. Whereas they
should have stopped to consider their capacity.
In theory it is easy to convince an ignorant person: in actual life, men
not only object to offer themselves to be convinced, but hate the man
who has convinced them. Whereas Socrates used to say that we should
never lead a life not subjected to examination.
This is the reason why Socrates, when reminded that he should prepare
for his trial, answered: "Thinkest thou not that I have been preparing
for it all my life?"
"In what way?"
"I have maintained that which in me lay!"
"I have never, secretly or openly, done a wrong unto any."
In what character dost thou now come forward?
As a witness summoned by God. "Come thou," saith God, "and testify for
me, for thou art worthy of being brought forward as a witness by Me. Is
aught that is outside thy will either good or bad? Do I hurt any man?
Have I placed the good of each in the power of any other than himself?
What witness dost thou bear to God?"
"I am in evil state, Master, I am undone! None careth for me, none
giveth me aught: all men blame, all speak evil of me."
Is this the witness thou wilt bear, and do dishonour to the calling
wherewith He hath called thee, because He hath done thee so great
honour, and deemed thee worthy of being summoned to bear witness in so
great a cause?
Wouldst thou have men speak good of thee? speak good of them. And when
thou hast learned to speak good of them, try to do good unto them, and
thus thou wilt reap in return their speaking good of thee.
When thou goest in to any of the great, remember that Another from above
sees what is passing, and that thou shouldst please Him rather than man.
He therefore asks thee:--
"In the Schools, what didst thou call exile, imprisionment, bonds, death
"I called them things indifferent."
"What then dost thou call them now? Are they at all changed?"
"Is it then thou that art changed?"
"Say then, what are things indifferent?"
"Things that are not in our power."
"Say then, what follows?"
"That things which are not in our power are nothing to me."
"Say also what things you hold to be good."
"A will such as it ought to be, and a right use of the things of sense."
"And what is the end?"
"To follow Thee!"
"That Socrates should ever have been so treated by the Athenians!"
Slave! why say "Socrates"? Speak of the thing as it is: That ever then
the poor body of Socrates should have been dragged away and haled by
main force to prision! That ever hemlock should have been given to the
body of Socrates; that that should have breathed its life away!--Do you
marvel at this? Do you hold this unjust? Is it for this that you accuse
God? Had Socrates no compensation for this? Where then for him was the
ideal Good? Whom shall we hearken to, you or him? And what says he?
"Anytus and Melitus may put me to death: to injure me is beyond their
"If such be the will of God, so let it be."
Nay, young man, for heaven's sake; but once thou hast heard these words,
go home and say to thyself:--"It is not Epictetus that has told me these
things: how indeed should he? No, it is some gracious God through him.
Else it would never have entered his head to tell me them--he that is
not used to speak to any one thus. Well, then, let us not lie under the
wrath of God, but be obedient unto Him."---Nay, indeed; but if a raven
by its croaking bears thee any sign, it is not the raven but God that
sends the sign through the raven; and if He signifies anything to thee
through human voice, will He not cause the man to say these words to
thee, that thou mayest know the power of the Divine--how He sends a sign
to some in one way and to others in another, and on the greatest and
highest matters of all signifies His will through the noblest messenger?
What else does the poet mean:--
I spake unto him erst Myself, and sent
Hermes the shining One, to check and warn him,
The husband not to slay, nor woo the wife!
In the same way my friend Heraclitus, who had a trifling suit about a
petty farm at Rhodes, first showed the judges that his cause was just,
and then at the finish cried, "I will not entreat you: nor do I care
what sentence you pass. It is you who are on your trial, not I!"--And so
he ended the case.
As for us, we behave like a herd of deer. When they flee from the
huntsman's feathers in affright, which way do they turn? What haven of
safety do they make for? Why, they rush upon the nets! And thus they
perish by confounding what they should fear with that wherein no danger
lies. . . . Not death or pain is to be feared, but the fear of death or
pain. Well said the poet therefore:--
Death has no terror; only a Death of shame!
How is it then that certain external things are said to be natural, and
other contrary to Nature?
Why, just as it might be said if we stood alone and apart from others.
A foot, for instance, I will allow it is natural should be clean. But if
you take it as a foot, and as a thing which does not stand by itself, it
will beseem it (if need be) to walk in the mud, to tread on thorns, and
sometimes even to be cut off, for the benefit of the whole body; else
it is no longer a foot. In some such way we should conceive of ourselves
also. What art thou?--A man.--Looked at as standing by thyself and
separate, it is natural for thee in health and wealth long to live.
But looked at as a Man, and only as a part of a Whole, it is for that
Whole's sake that thou shouldest at one time fall sick, at another brave
the perils of the sea, again, know the meaning of want and perhaps die
an early death. Why then repine? Knowest thou not that as the foot is
no more a foot if detached from the body, so thou in like case art no
longer a Man? For what is a Man? A part of a City:--first of the City
of Gods and Men; next, of that which ranks nearest it, a miniature of
the universal City. . . . In such a body, in such a world enveloping us,
among lives like these, such things must happen to one or another. Thy
part, then, being here, is to speak of these things as is meet, and to
order them as befits the matter.
That was a good reply which Diogenes made to a man who asked him for
letters of recommendation.--"That you are a man, he will know when he
sees you;--whether a good or bad one, he will know if he has any skill
in discerning the good or bad. But if he has none, he will never know,
though I write him a thousand times."--It is as though a piece of silver
money desired to be recommended to some one to be tested. If the man be
a good judge of silver, he will know: the coin will tell its own tale.
Even as the traveller asks his way of him that he meets, inclined in no
wise to bear to the right rather than to the left (for he desires only
the way leading whither he would go), so should we come unto God as to a
guide; even as we use our eyes without admonishing them to show us some
things rather than others, but content to receive the images of such
things as they present to us. But as it is we stand anxiously
watching the victim, and with the voice of supplication call upon the
augur:--"Master, have mercy on me: vouchsafe unto me a way of escape!"
Slave, would you then have aught else then what is best? is there
anything better than what is God's good pleasure? Why, as far as in you
lies, would you corrupt your Judge, and lead your Counsellor astray?
God is beneficent. But the Good also is beneficent. It should seem then
that where the real nature of God is, there too is to be found the real
nature of the Good. What then is the real nature of God?--Intelligence,
Knowledge, Right Reason. Here then without more ado seek the real nature
of the Good. For surely thou dost not seek it in a plant or in an animal
that reasoneth not.
Seek then the real nature of the Good in that without whose presence
thou wilt not admit the Good to exist in aught else.--What then? Are not
these other things also works of God?--They are; but not preferred to
honour, nor are they portions of God. But thou art a thing preferred to
honour: thou art thyself a fragment torn from God:--thou hast a portion
of Him within thyself. How is it then that thou dost not know thy high
descent--dost not know whence thou comest? When thou eatest, wilt
thou not remember who thou art that eatest and whom thou feedest? In
intercourse, in exercise, in discussion knowest thou not that it is
a God whom thou feedest, a God whom thou exercisest, a God whom thou
bearest about with thee, O miserable! and thou perceivest it not.
Thinkest thou that I speak of a God of silver or gold, that is without
thee? Nay, thou bearest Him within thee! all unconscious of polluting Him
with thoughts impure and unclean deeds. Were an image of God present,
thou wouldest not dare to act as thou dost, yet, when God Himself is
present within thee, beholding and hearing all, thou dost not blush to
think such thoughts and do such deeds, O thou that art insensible of
thine own nature and liest under the wrath of God!
Why then are we afraid when we send a young man from the Schools into
active life, lest he should indulge his appetites intemperately, lest
he should debase himself by ragged clothing, or be puffed up by fine
raiment? Knows he not the God within him; knows he not with whom he is
starting on his way? Have we patience to hear him say to us, Would I
had thee with me!--Hast thou not God where thou art, and having Him dost
thou still seek for any other! Would He tell thee aught else than these
things? Why, wert thou a statue of Phidias, an Athena or a Zeus, thou
wouldst bethink thee both of thyself and thine artificer; and hadst thou
any sense, thou wouldst strive to do no dishonour to thyself or him that
fashioned thee, nor appear to beholders in unbefitting guise. But now,
because God is thy Maker, is that why thou carest not of what sort
thou shalt show thyself to be? Yet how different the artists and their
workmanship! What human artist's work, for example, has in it the
faculties that are displayed in fashioning it? Is it aught but marble,
bronze, gold, or ivory? Nay, when the Athena of Phidias has put forth
her hand and received therein a Victory, in that attitude she stands
for evermore. But God's works move and breathe; they use and judge the
things of sense. The workmanship of such an Artist, wilt thou dishonor
Him? Ay, when he not only fashioned thee, but placed thee, like a ward,
in the care and guardianship of thyself alone, wilt thou not only forget
this, but also do dishonour to what is committed to thy care! If God had
entrusted thee with an orphan, wouldst thou have thus neglected him? He
hath delivered thee to thine own care, saying, I had none more faithful
than myself: keep this man for me such as Nature hath made him--modest,
faithful, high-minded, a stranger to fear, to passion, to perturbation.
. . .
Such will I show myself to you all.--"What, exempt from sickness also:
from age, from death?"--Nay, but accepting sickness, accepting death as
becomes a God!
No labour, according to Diogenes, is good but that which aims at
producing courage and strength of soul rather than of body.
A guide, on finding a man who has lost his way, brings him back to the
right path--he does not mock and jeer at him and then take himself off.
You also must show the unlearned man the truth, and you will see that he
will follow. But so long as you do not show it him, you should not mock,
but rather feel your own incapacity.
It was the first and most striking characteristic of Socrates never to
become heated in discourse, never to utter an injurious or insulting
word--on the contrary, he persistently bore insult from others and thus
put an end to the fray. If you care to know the extent of his power
in this direction, read Xenophon's Banquet, and you will see how many
quarrels he put an end to. This is why the Poets are right in so highly
commending this faculty:--
Quickly and wisely withal even bitter feuds would he settle.
Nevertheless the practice is not very safe at present, especially in
Rome. One who adopts it, I need not say, ought not to carry it out in an
obscure corner, but boldly accost, if occasion serve, some personage of
rank or wealth.
"Can you tell me, sir, to whose care you entrust your horses?"
"Is it to the first corner, who knows nothing about them?"
"Well, what of the man who takes care of your gold, your silver or your
"He must be experienced also."
"And your body--have you ever considered about entrusting it to any
"Of course I have."
"And no doubt to a person of experience as a trainer, a physician?"
"And these things the best you possess, or have you anything more
"What can you mean?"
"I mean that which employs these; which weights all things; which takes
counsel and resolve."
"Oh, you mean the soul."
"You take me rightly; I do mean the soul. By Heaven, I hold that far
more precious than all else I possess. Can you show me then what care
you bestow on a soul? For it can scarcely be thought that a man of your
wisdom and consideration in the city would suffer your most precious
possession to go to ruin through carelessness and neglect."
"Well, do you take care of it yourself? Did any one teach you the right
method, or did you discover it yourself?"
Now here comes in the danger: first, that the great man may answer,
"Why, what is that to you, my good fellow? are you my master?" And then,
if you persist in troubling him, may raise his hand to strike you. It is
a practice of which I was myself a warm admirer until such experiences
as these befell me.
When a youth was giving himself airs in the Theatre and saying, "I am
wise, for I have conversed with many wise men," Epictetus replied, "I
too have conversed with many rich men, yet I am not rich!"
We see that a carpenter becomes a carpenter by learning certain things:
that a pilot, by learning certain things, becomes a pilot. Possibly also
in the present case the mere desire to be wise and good is not enough.
It is necessary to learn certain things. This is then the object of our
search. The Philosophers would have us first learn that there is a God,
and that His Providence directs the Universe; further, that to hide
from Him not only one's acts but even one's thoughts and intentions is
impossible; secondly, what the nature of God is. Whatever that nature is
discovered to be, the man who would please and obey Him must strive with
all his might to be made like unto him. If the Divine is faithful, he
also must be faithful; if free, he also must be free; if beneficent, he
also must be beneficent; if magnanimous, he also must be magnanimous.
Thus as an imitator of God must he follow Him in every deed and word.
If I show you, that you lack just what is most important and necessary
to happiness, that hitherto your attention has been bestowed on
everything rather than that which claims it most; and, to crown all,
that you know neither what God nor Man is--neither what Good or Evil is:
why, that you are ignorant of everything else, perhaps you may bear to
be told; but to hear that you know nothing of yourself, how could you
submit to that? How could you stand your ground and suffer that to be
proved? Clearly not at all. You instantly turn away in wrath. Yet what
harm have I done to you? Unless indeed the mirror harms the ill-favoured
man by showing him to himself just as he is; unless the physician can
be thought to insult his patient, when he tells him:--"Friend, do you
suppose there is nothing wrong with you? why, you have a fever. Eat
nothing to-day, and drink only water." Yet no one says, "What an
insufferable insult!" Whereas if you say to a man, "Your desires are
inflamed, your instincts of rejection are weak and low, your aims
are inconsistent, your impulses are not in harmony with Nature, your
opinions are rash and false," he forthwith goes away and complains that
you have insulted him.
Our way of life resembles a fair. The flocks and herds are passing along
to be sold, and the greater part of the crowd to buy and sell. But there
are some few who come only to look at the fair, to inquire how and why
it is being held, upon what authority and with what object. So too, in
this great Fair of life, some, like the cattle, trouble themselves about
nothing but the fodder. Know all of you, who are busied about land,
slaves and public posts, that these are nothing but fodder! Some few
there are attending the Fair, who love to contemplate what the world
is, what He that administers it. Can there be no Administrator? is it
possible, that while neither city nor household could endure even a
moment without one to administer and see to its welfare, this Fabric, so
fair, so vast, should be administered in order so harmonious, without a
purpose and by blind chance? There is therefore an Administrator. What
is His nature and how does He administer? And who are we that are
His children and what work were we born to perform? Have we any close
connection or relation with Him or not?
Such are the impressions of the few of whom I speak. And further, they
apply themselves solely to considering and examining the great assembly
before they depart. Well, they are derided by the multitude. So are the
lookers-on by the traders: aye, and if the beasts had any sense, they
would deride those who thought much of anything but fodder!
I think I know now what I never knew before--the meaning of the common
saying, A fool you can neither bend nor break. Pray heaven I may never
have a wise fool for my friend! There is nothing more intractable.--"My
resolve is fixed!"--Why so madman say too; but the more firmly they
believe in their delusions, the more they stand in need of treatment.
--"O! when shall I see Athens and its Acropolis again?"--Miserable man!
art thou not contented with the daily sights that meet thine eyes? canst
thou behold aught greater or nobler than the Sun, Moon, and Stars;
than the outspread Earth and Sea? If indeed thous apprehendest Him who
administers the universe, if thou bearest Him about within thee, canst
thou still hanker after mere fragments of stone and fine rock? When thou
art about to bid farewell to the Sun and Moon itself, wilt thou sit down
and cry like a child? Why, what didst thou hear, what didst thou learn?
why didst thou write thyself down a philosopher, when thou mightest have
written what was the fact, namely, "I have made one or two Compendiums,
I have read some works of Chrysippus, and I have not even touched the
hem of Philosophy's robe!"
Friend, lay hold with a desperate grasp, ere it is too late, on Freedom,
on Tranquility, on Greatness of soul! Lift up thy head, as one escaped
from slavery; dare to look up to God, and say:--"Deal with me henceforth
as Thou wilt; Thou and I are of one mind. I am Thine: I refuse nothing
that seeeth good to Thee; lead on whither Thou wilt; clothe me in what
garb Thou pleasest; wilt Thou have me a ruler or a subject--at home or
in exile--poor or rich? All these things will I justify unto men for
Thee. I will show the true nature of each. . . ."
Who would Hercules have been had he loitered at home? no Hercules, but
Eurystheus. And in his wanderings through the world how many friends and
comrades did he find? but nothing dearer to him than God. Wherefore he
was believed to be God's son, as indeed he was. So then in obedience to
Him, he went about delivering the earth from injustice and lawlessness.
But thou art not Hercules, thou sayest, and canst not deliver others
from their iniquity--not even Theseus, to deliver the soil of Attica
from its monsters? Purge away thine own, cast forth thence--from thine
own mind, not robbers and monsters, but Fear, Desire, Envy, Malignity,
Avarice, Effeminacy, Intemperance. And these may not be cast out, except
by looking to God alone, by fixing thy affections on Him only, and by
consecrating thyself to His commands. If thou choosest aught else, with
sighs and groans thou wilt be forced to follow a Might greater than
thine own, ever seeking Tranquillity without, and never able to attain
unto her. For thou seekest her where she is not to be found; and where
she is, there thou seekest her not!
If a man would pursue Philosophy, his first task is to throw away
conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he has a
conceit that he already knows.
Give me but one young man, that has come to the School with this
intention, who stands forth a champion of this cause, and says, "All
else I renounce, content if I am but able to pass my life free from
hindrance and trouble; to raise my head aloft and face all things as a
free man; to look up to heaven as a friend of God, fearing nothing that
may come to pass!" Point out such a one to me, that I may say, "Enter,
young man, into possession of that which is thine own. For thy lot is to
adorn Philosophy. Thine are these possessions; thine these books, these
And when our champion has duly exercised himself in this part of the
subject, I hope he will come back to me and say:--"What I desire is to
be free from passion and from perturbation; as one who grudges no pains
in the pursuit of piety and philosophy, what I desire is to know my duty
to the Gods, my duty to my parents, to my brothers, to my country, to
"Enter then on the second part of the subject; it is thine also."
"But I have already mastered the second part; only I wished to stand
firm and unshaken--as firm when asleep as when awake, as firm when
elated with wine as in despondency and dejection."
"Friend, you are verily a God! you cherish great designs."
"The question at stake," said Epictetus, "is no common one; it is
this:--Are we in our senses, or are we not?"
If you have given way to anger, be sure that over and above the evil
involved therein, you have strengthened the habit, and added fuel to
the fire. If overcome by a temptation of the flesh, do not reckon it
a single defeat, but that you have also strengthened your dissolute
habits. Habits and faculties are necessarily affected by the
corresponding acts. Those that were not there before, spring up: the
rest gain in strength and extent. This is the account which Philosophers
give of the origin of diseases of the mind:--Suppose you have once
lusted after money: if reason sufficient to produce a sense of evil
be applied, then the lust is checked, and the mind at once regains its
original authority; whereas if you have recourse to no remedy, you can
no longer look for this return--on the contrary, the next time it is
excited by the corresponding object, the flame of desire leaps up more
quickly than before. By frequent repetition, the mind in the long
run becomes callous; and thus this mental disease produces confirmed
One who has had fever, even when it has left him, is not in the same
condition of health as before, unless indeed his cure is complete.
Something of the same sort is true also of diseases of the mind. Behind,
there remains a legacy of traces and blisters: and unless these are
effectually erased, subsequent blows on the same spot will produce
no longer mere blisters, but sores. If you do not wish to be prone
to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend its
increase. At first, keep quiet and count the days when you were not
angry: "I used to be angry every day, then every other day: next every
two, next every three days!" and if you succeed in passing thirty days,
sacrifice to the Gods in thanksgiving.
How then may this be attained?--Resolve, now if never before, to approve
thyself to thyself; resolve to show thyself fair in God's sight; long to
be pure with thine own pure self and God!
That is the true athlete, that trains himself to resist such outward
impressions as these.
"Stay, wretched man! suffer not thyself to be carried away!" Great is
the combat, divine the task! you are fighting for Kingship, for Liberty,
for Happiness, for Tranquillity. Remember God: call upon Him to aid
thee, like a comrade that stands beside thee in the fight.
Who then is a Stoic--in the sense that we call a statue of Phidias
which is modelled after that master's art? Show me a man in this sense
modelled after the doctrines that are ever upon his lips. Show me a man
that is sick--and happy; an exile--and happy; in evil report--and happy!
Show me him, I ask again. So help me Heaven, I long to see one Stoic!
Nay, if you cannot show me one fully modelled, let me at least see one
in whom the process is at work--one whose bent is in that direction. Do
me that favour! Grudge it not to an old man, to behold a sight he has
never yet beheld. Think you I wish to see the Zeus or Athena of Phidias,
bedecked with gold and ivory?--Nay, show me, one of you, a human soul,
desiring to be of one mind with God, no more to lay blame on God or man,
to suffer nothing to disappoint, nothing to cross him, to yield neither
to anger, envy, nor jealousy--in a word, why disguise the matter? one
that from a man would fan become a God; one that while still imprisoned
in this dead body makes fellowship with God his aim. Show me him!--Ah,
you cannot! Then why mock yourselves and delude others? why stalk about
tricked out in other men's attire, thieves and robbers that you are of
names and things to which you can show no title!
If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both
played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your
Fellow, you have come to blows at home with a slave: you have turned the
household upside down, and thrown the neighbourhood into confusion; and
do you come to me then with airs of assumed modesty--do you sit down
like a sage and criticise my explanation of the readings, and whatever
idle babble you say has come into my head? Have you come full of envy,
and dejected because nothing is sent you from home; and while the
discussion is going on, do you sit brooding on nothing but how your
father or your brother are disposed towards you:--"What are they saying
about me there? at this moment they imagine I am making progress and
saying, He will return perfectly omniscient! I wish I could become
omniscient before I return; but that would be very troublesome. No one
sends me anything--the baths at Nicopolis are dirty; things are wretched
at home and wretched here." And then they say, "Nobody is any the better
for the School."--Who comes to the School with a sincere wish to learn:
to submit his principles to correction and himself to treatment? Who, to
gain a sense of his wants? Why then be surprised if you carry home from
the School exactly what you bring into it?
"Epictetus, I have often come desiring to hear you speak, and you have
never given me any answer; now if possible, I entreat you, say something
"Is there, do you think," replied Epictetus, "an art of speaking as
of other things, if it is to be done skilfully and with profit to the
"And are all profited by what they hear, or only some among them? So
that it seems there is an art of hearing as well as of speaking. . . .
To make a statue needs skill: to view a statue aright needs skill also."
"And I think all will allow that one who proposes to hear philosophers
speak needs a considerable training in hearing. Is that not so? The tell
me on what subject your are able to hear me."
"Why, on good and evil."
"The good and evil of what? a horse, an ox?"
"No; of a man."
"Do we know then what Man is? what his nature is? what is the idea we
have of him? And are our ears practised in any degree on the subject?
Nay, do you understand what Nature is? can you follow me in any degree
when I say that I shall have to use demonstration? Do you understand
what Demonstration is? what True or False is? . . . must I drive you to
Philosophy? . . . Show me what good I am to do by discoursing with you.
Rouse my desire to do so. The sight of a pasture it loves stirs in
a sheep the desire to feed: show it a stone or a bit of bread and it
remains unmoved. Thus we also have certain natural desires, aye, and one
that moves us to speak when we find a listener that is worth his salt:
one that himself stirs the spirit. But if he sits by like a stone or a
tuft of grass, how can he rouse a man's desire?"
"Then you will say nothing to me?"
"I can only tell you this: that one who knows not who he is and to
what end he was born; what kind of world this is and with whom he is
associated therein; one who cannot distinguish Good and Evil, Beauty and
Foulness, . . . Truth and Falsehood, will never follow Reason in shaping
his desires and impulses and repulsions, nor yet in assent, denial, or
suspension of judgement; but will in one word go about deaf and blind,
thinking himself to be somewhat, when he is in truth of no account. Is
there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all
the mistakes and mischances of men since the human race began? . . ."
"This is all I have to say to you, and even this against the grain. Why?
Because you have not stirred my spirit. For what can I see in you to
stir me, as a spirited horse will stir a judge of horses? Your body?
That you maltreat. Your dress? That is luxurious. You behavior, your
look?--Nothing whatever. When you want to hear a philosopher, do not
say, You say nothing to me'; only show yourself worthy or fit to hear,
and then you will see how you will move the speaker."
And now, when you see brothers apparently good friends and living in
accord, do not immediately pronounce anything upon their friendship,
though they should affirm it with an oath, though they should declare,
"For us to live apart in a thing impossible!" For the heart of a bad
man is faithless, unprincipled, inconstant: now overpowered by one
impression, now by another. Ask not the usual questions, Were they born
of the same parents, reared together, and under the same tutor; but ask
this only, in what they place their real interest--whether in outward
things or in the Will. If in outward things, call them not friends, any
more than faithful, constant, brave or free: call them not even human
beings, if you have any sense. . . . But should you hear that these men
hold the Good to lie only in the Will, only in rightly dealing with the
things of sense, take no more trouble to inquire whether they are father
and son or brothers, or comrades of long standing; but, sure of this
one thing, pronounce as boldly that they are friends as that they are
faithful and just: for where else can Friendship be found than where
Modesty is, where there is an interchange of things fair and honest, and
of such only?
No man can rob us of our Will--no man can lord it over that!
When disease and death overtake me, I would fain be found engaged in
the task of liberating mine own Will from the assaults of passion, from
hindrance, from resentment, from slavery.
Thus would I fain to be found employed, so that I may say to God, "Have
I in aught transgressed Thy commands? Have I in aught perverted the
faculties, the senses, the natural principles that Thou didst give me?
Have I ever blamed Thee or found fault with Thine administration? When
it was Thy good pleasure, I fell sick--and so did other men: by my will
consented. Because it was Thy pleasure, I became poor: but my heart
rejoiced. No power in the State was mine, because Thou wouldst not:
such power I never desired! Hast Thou ever seen me of more doleful
countenance on that account? Have I not ever drawn nigh unto Thee with
cheerful look, waiting upon Thy commands, attentive to Thy signals? Wilt
Thou that I now depart from the great Assembly of men? I go: I give Thee
all thanks, that Thou hast deemed me worthy to take part with Thee
in this Assembly: to behold Thy works, to comprehend this Thine
Such I would were the subject of my thoughts, my pen, my study, when
death overtakes me.
Seemeth it nothing to you, never to accuse, never to blame either God or
Man? to wear ever the same countenance in going forth as in coming
in? This was the secret of Socrates: yet he never said that he knew
or taught anything. . . . Who amongst you makes this his aim? Were it
indeed so, you would gladly endure sickness, hunger, aye, death itself.
How are we constituted by Nature? To be free, to be noble, to be modest
(for what other living thing is capable of blushing, or of feeling the
impression of shame?) and to subordinate pleasure to the ends for which
Nature designed us, as a handmaid and a minister, in order to call forth
our activity; in order to keep us constant to the path prescribed by
The husbandman deals with land; physicians and trainers with the body;
the wise man with his own Mind.
Which of us does not admire what Lycurgus the Spartan did? A young
citizen had put out his eye, and been handed over to him by the people
to be punished at his own discretion. Lycurgus abstained from all
vengeance, but on the contrary instructed and made a good man of him.
Producing him in public in the theatre, he said to the astonished
Spartans:--"I received this young man at your hands full of violence
and wanton insolence; I restore him to you in his right mind and fit to
serve his country."
A money-changer may not reject Cęsar's coin, nor may the seller of
herbs, but must when once the coin is shown, deliver what is sold for
it, whether he will or no. So is it also with the Soul. Once the Good
appears, it attracts towards itself; evil repels. But a clear and
certain impression of the Good the Soul will never reject, any more than
men do Cęsar's coin. On this hangs every impulse alike of Man and God.
Asked what Common Sense was, Epictetus replied:--
As that may be called a Common Ear which distinguishes only sounds,
while that which distinguishes musical notes is not common but produced
by training; so there are certain things which men not entirely
perverted see by the natural principles common to all. Such a
constitution of the Mind is called Common Sense.
Canst thou judge men? . . . then make us imitators of thyself, as
Socrates did. Do this, do not do that, else will I cast thee into
prision; this is not governing men like reasonable creatures. Say
rather, As God hath ordained, so do; else thou wilt suffer chastisement
and loss. Askest thou what loss? None other than this: To have left
undone what thou shouldst have done: to have lost the faithfulness, the
reverence, the modesty that is in thee! Greater loss than this seek not
"His son is dead."
What has happened?
"His son is dead."
"His ship is lost."
"He has been haled to prision."
What has happened?
"He has been haled to prision."
But that any of these things are misfortunes to him, is an addition
which every one makes of his own. But (you say) God is unjust is
this.--Why? For having given thee endurance and greatness of soul? For
having made such things to be no evils? For placing happiness within thy
reach, even when enduring them? For open unto thee a door, when things
make not for thy good?--Depart, my friend and find fault no more!
You are sailing to Rome (you tell me) to obtain the post of Governor of
Cnossus. You are not content to stay at home with the honours you had
before; you want something on a larger scale, and more conspicuous. But
when did you ever undertake a voyage for the purpose of reviewing your
own principles and getting rid of any of them that proved unsound? Whom
did you ever visit for that object? What time did you ever set yourself
for that? What age? Run over the times of your life--by yourself, if you
are ashamed before me. Did you examine your principles when a boy? Did
you not do everything just as you do now? Or when you were a stripling,
attending the school of oratory and practising the art yourself, what
did you ever imagine you lacked? And when you were a young man, entered
upon public life, and were pleading causes and making a name, who any
longer seemed equal to you? And at what moment would you have endured
another examining your principles and proving that they were unsound?
What then am I to say to you? "Help me in this matter!" you cry. Ah, for
that I have no rule! And neither did you, if that was your object, come
to me as a philosopher, but as you might have gone to a herb-seller or
a cobbler.--"What do philosophers have rules for, then?"--Why, that
whatever may betide, our ruling faculty may be as Nature would have it,
and so remain. Think you this a small matter? Not so! but the greatest
thing there is. Well, does it need but a short time? Can it be grasped
by a passer-by?--grasp it, if you can!
Then you will say, "Yes, I met Epictetus!"
Aye, just as you might a statue or a monument. You saw me! and that is
all. But a man who meets a man is one who learns the other's mind, and
lets him see is in turn. Learn my mind--show me yours; and then go
and say that you met me. Let us try each other; if I have any wrong
principle, rid me of it; if you have, out with it. That is what meeting
a philosopher means. Not so, you think; this is only a flying visit;
while we are hiring the ship, we can see Epictetus too! Let us see
what he has to say. Then on leaving you cry, "Out on Epictetus for a
worthless fellow, provincial and barbarous of speech!" What else indeed
did you come to judge of?
Whether you will or no, you are poorer than I!
"What then do I lack?"
What you have not: Constancy of mind, such as Nature would have it be:
Tranquillity. Patron or no patron, what care I? but you do care. I am
richer than you: I am not racked with anxiety as to what Cęsar may
think of me; I flatter none on that account. This is what I have,
instead of vessels of gold and silver! your vessels may be of gold, but
your reason, your principles, your accepted views, your inclinations,
your desires are of earthenware.
To you, all you have seems small: to me, all I have seems great. Your
desire is insatiable, mine is satisfied. See children thrusting their
hands into a narrow-necked jar, and striving to pull out the nuts and
figs it contains: if they fill the hand, they cannot pull it out again,
and then they fall to tears.--"Let go a few of them, and then you
can draw out the rest!"--You, too, let your desire go! covet not many
things, and you will obtain.
Pittacus wronged by one whom he had it in his power to punish, let
him go free, saying, Forgiveness is better than revenge. The one shows
native gentleness, the other savagery.
"My brother ought not to have treated me thus."
True: but he must see to that. However he may treat me, I must deal
rightly by him. This is what lies with me, what none can hinder.
Nevertheless a man should also be prepared to be sufficient unto
himself--to dwell with himself alone, even as God dwells with Himself
alone, shares His repose with none, and considers the nature of His own
administration, intent upon such thoughts as are meet unto Himself. So
should we also be able to converse with ourselves, to need none else
beside, to sigh for no distraction, to bend our thoughts upon the Divine
Administration, and how we stand related to all else; to observe how
human accidents touched us of old, and how they touch us now; what
things they are that still have power to hurt us, and how they may
be cured or removed; to perfect what needs perfecting as Reason would
If a man has frequent intercourse with others, either in the way of
conversation, entertainment, or simple familiarity, he must either
become like them, or change them to his own fashion. A live coal placed
next a dead one will either kindle that or be quenched by it. Such being
the risk, it is well to be cautious in admitting intimacies of this
sort, remembering that one cannot rub shoulders with a soot-stained man
without sharing the soot oneself. What will you do, supposing the talk
turns on gladiators, or horses, or prize-fighters, or (what is worse) on
persons, condemning this and that, approving the other? Or suppose a man
sneers and jeers or shows a malignant temper? Has any among us the skill
of the lute-player, who knows at the first touch which strings are out
of tune and sets the instrument right: has any of you such power as
Socrates had, in all his intercourse with men, of winning them over
to his own convictions? Nay, but you must needs be swayed hither and
thither by the uninstructed. How comes it then that they prove so
much stronger than you? Because they speak from the fulness of the
heart--their low, corrupt views are their real convictions: whereas your
fine sentiments are but from the lips, outwards; that is why they are
so nerveless and dead. It turns one's stomach to listen to your
exhortations, and hear of your miserable Virtue, that you prate of
up and down. Thus it is that the Vulgar prove too strong for you.
Everywhere strength, everywhere victory waits your conviction!
In general, any methods of discipline applied to the body which tend
to modify its desires or repulsions, are good--for ascetic ends. But if
done for display, they betray at once a man who keeps an eye on outward
show; who has an ulterior purpose, and is looking for spectators to
shout, "Oh what a great man!" This is why Apollonius so well said: "If
you are bent upon a little private discipline, wait till you are choking
with heat some day--then take a mouthful of cold water, and spit it out
again, and tell no man!"
Study how to give as one that is sick: that thou mayest hereafter give
as one that is whole. Fast; drink water only; abstain altogether from
desire, that thou mayest hereafter conform thy desire to Reason.
Thou wouldst do good unto men? then show them by thine own example
what kind of men philosophy can make, and cease from foolish trifling.
Eating, do good to them that eat with thee; drinking, to them that drink
with thee; yield unto all, give way, and bear with them. Thus shalt thou
do them good: but vent not upon them thine own evil humour!
Even as bad actors cannot sing alone, but only in chorus: so some cannot
Man, if thou art aught, strive to walk alone and hold converse with
thyself, instead of skulking in the chorus! at length think; look around
thee; bestir thyself, that thou mayest know who thou art!
You would fain be victor at the Olympic games, you say. Yes, but weigh
the conditions, weigh the consequences; then and then only, lay to your
hand--if it be for your profit. You must live by rule, submit to diet,
abstain from dainty meats, exercise your body perforce at stated hours,
in heat or in cold; drink no cold water, nor, it may be, wine. In a
word, you must surrender yourself wholly to your trainer, as though to a
Then in the hour of contest, you will have to delve the ground, it may
chance dislocate an arm, sprain an ankle, gulp down abundance of yellow
sand, be scourge with the whip--and with all this sometimes lose the
victory. Count the cost--and then, if your desire still holds, try the
wrestler's life. Else let me tell you that you will be behaving like a
pack of children playing now at wrestlers, now at gladiators; presently
falling to trumpeting and anon to stage-playing, when the fancy takes
them for what they have seen. And you are even the same: wrestler,
gladiator, philosopher, orator all by turns and none of them with your
whole soul. Like an ape, you mimic what you see, to one thing constant
never; the thing that is familiar charms no more. This is because you
never undertook aught with due consideration, nor after strictly testing
and viewing it from every side; no, your choice was thoughtless; the
glow of your desire had waxed cold . . . .
Friend, bethink you first what it is you would do, and then what your
own nature is able to bear. Would you be a wrestler, consider your
shoulders, your thighs, your lions--not all men are formed to the same
end. Think you to be a philosopher while acting as you do? think you go
on thus eating, thus drinking, giving way in like manner to wrath and
to displeasure? Nay, you must watch, you must labour; overcome certain
desires; quit your familiar friends, submit to be despised by your
slave, to be held in derision by them that meet you, to take the lower
place in all things, in office, in positions of authority, in courts of
Weigh these things fully, and then, if you will, lay to your hand; if
as the price of these things you would gain Freedom, Tranquillity, and
He that hath no musical instruction is a child in Music; he that hath no
letters is a child in Learning; he that is untaught is a child in Life.
Can any profit be derived from these men? Aye, from all.
"What, even from a reviler?"
Why, tell me what profit a wrestler gains from him you exercises
him beforehand? The very greatest: he trains me in the practice of
endurance, of controlling my temper, of gentle ways. You deny it. What,
the man who lays hold of my neck, and disciplines loins and shoulders,
does me good, . . . while he that trains me to keep my temper does me
none? This is what it means, not knowing how to gain advantage from men!
Is my neighbour bad? Bad to himself, but good to me: he brings my good
temper, my gentleness into play. Is my father bad? Bad to himself, but
good to me. This is the rod of Hermes; touch what you will with it,
they say, and it becomes gold. Nay, but bring what you will and I will
transmute it into Good. Bring sickness, bring death, bring poverty and
reproach, bring trial for life--all these things through the rod of
Hermes shall be turned to profit.
Till then these sound opinions have taken firm root in you, and you
have gained a measure of strength for your security, I counsel you to be
cautious in associating with the uninstructed. Else whatever impressions
you receive upon the tablets of your mind in the School will day by day
melt and disappear, like wax in the sun. Withdraw then somewhere far
from the sun, while you have these waxen sentiments.
We must approach this matter in a different way; it is great and
mystical: it is no common thing; nor given to every man. Wisdom alone,
it may be, will not suffice for the care of youth: a man needs also
a certain measure of readiness--an aptitude for the office; aye, and
certain bodily qualities; and above all, to be counselled of God Himself
to undertake this post; even as He counselled Socrates to fill the post
of one who confutes error, assigning to Diogenes the royal office of
high reproof, and to Zeno that of positive instruction. Whereas you
would fain set up for a physician provided with nothing but drugs! Where
and how they should be applied you neither know nor care.
If what charms you is nothing but abstract principles, sit down and turn
them over quietly in your mind: but never dub yourself a Philosopher,
nor suffer others to call you so. Say rather: He is in error; for my
desires, my impulses are unaltered. I give in my adhesion to what I did
before; nor has my mode of dealing with the things of sense undergone
When a friend inclined to Cynic views asked Epictetus, what sort of
person a true Cynic should be, requesting a general sketch of the
system, he answered:--"We will consider that at leisure. At present
I content myself with saying this much: If a man put his hand to so
weighty a matter without God, the wrath of God abides upon him. That
which he covets will but bring upon him public shame. Not even on
finding himself in a well-ordered house does a man step forward and say
to himself, I must be master here! Else the lord of that house takes
notice of it, and, seeing him insolently giving orders, drags him forth
and chastises him. So it is also in this great City, the World. Here
also is there a Lord of the House, who orders all thing:--
"Thou are the Sun! in thine orbit thou hast
power to make the year and the seasons;
to bid the fruits of the earth to grow
and increase, the winds arise and fall;
thou canst in due measure cherish with
thy warmth the frames of men; go make
thy circuit, and thus minister unto all
from the greatest to the least! . . ."
"Thou canst lead a host against Troy; be Agamemnon!"
"Thou canst meet Hector in single combat; be Achilles!"
"But had Thersites stepped forward and claimed the chief command, he
had been met with a refusal, or obtained it only to his own shame and
confusion of face, before a cloud of witnesses."
Others may fence themselves with walls and houses, when they do such
deeds as these, and wrap themselves in darkness--aye, they have many
a device to hide themselves. Another may shut his door and station one
before his chamber to say, if any comes, He has gone forth! he is not at
leisure! But the true Cynic will have none of these things; instead of
them, he must wrap himself in Modesty: else he will but bring himself
to shame, naked and under the open sky. That is his house; that is his
door; that is the slave that guards his chamber; that is his darkness!
Death? let it come when it will, whether it smite but a part of the
whole: Fly, you tell me--fly! But whither shall I fly? Can any man cast
me beyond the limits of the World? It may not be! And whithersoever I
go, there shall I still find Sun, Moon, and Stars; there I shall find
dreams, and omens, and converse with the Gods!
Furthermore the true Cynic must know that he is sent as a Messenger from
God to men, to show unto them that as touching good and evil they are
in error; looking for these where they are not to be found, nor ever
bethinking themselves where they are. And like Diogenes when brought
before Philip after the battle of Chaeronea, the Cynic must remember
that he is a Spy. For a Spy he really is--to bring back word what things
are on Man's side, and what against him. And when he had diligently
observed all, he must come back with a true report, not terrified into
announcing them to be foes that are no foes, nor otherwise perturbed or
confounded by the things of sense.
How can it be that one who hath nothing, neither raiment, nor house,
nor home, nor bodily tendance, nor servant, nor city, should yet live
tranquil and contented? Behold God hath sent you a man to show you in
act and deed that it may be so. Behold me! I have neither house nor
possessions nor servants: the ground is my couch; I have no wife, no
children, no shelter--nothing but earth and sky, and one poor cloak. And
what lack I yet? am I not untouched by sorrow, by fear? am I not free?
. . . when have I laid anything to the charge of God or Man? when have I
accused any? hath any of you seen me with a sorrowful countenance? And
in what wise treat I those of whom you stand in fear and awe? Is it not
as slaves? Who when he seeth me doth not think that he beholdeth his
Master and his King?
Give thyself more diligently to reflection: know thyself: take counsel
with the Godhead: without God put thine hand unto nothing!
"But to marry and to rear offspring," said the young man, "will the
Cynic hold himself bound to undertake this as a chief duty?"
Grant me a republic of wise men, answered Epictetus, and perhaps none
will lightly take the Cynic life upon him. For on whose account should
he embrace that method of life? Suppose however that he does, there will
then be nothing to hinder his marrying and rearing offspring. For his
wife will be even such another as himself, and likewise her father; and
in like manner will his children be brought up.
But in the present condition of things, which resembles an Army in
battle array, ought not the Cynic to be free from all distraction and
given wholly to the service of God, so that he can go in and out among
men, neither fettered by the duties nor entangled by the relations of
common life? For if he transgress them, he will forfeit the character of
a good man and true; whereas if he observe them, there is an end to him
as the Messenger, the Spy, the Herald of the Gods!
Ask me if you choose if a Cynic shall engage in the administration of
the State. O fool, seek you a nobler administration that that in which
he is engaged? Ask you if a man shall come forward in the Athenian
assembly and talk about revenue and supplies, when his business is to
converse with all men, Athenians, Corinthians, and Romans alike, not
about supplies, not about revenue, nor yet peace and war, but about
Happiness and Misery, Prosperity and Adversity, Slavery and Freedom?
Ask you whether a man shall engage in the administration of the State
who has engaged in such an Administration as this? Ask me too if he
shall govern; and again I will answer, Fool, what greater government
shall he hold than he holds already?
Such a man needs also to have a certain habit of body. If he appears
consumptive, thin and pale, his testimony has no longer the same
authority. He must not only prove to the unlearned by showing them what
his Soul is that it is possible to be a good man apart from all that
they admire; but he must also show them, by his body, that a plain
and simple manner of life under the open sky does no harm to the body
either. "See, I am proof of this! and my body also." As Diogenes used to
do, who went about fresh of look and by the very appearance of his body
drew men's eyes. But if a Cynic is an object of pity, he seems a
mere beggar; all turn away, all are offended at him. Nor should he be
slovenly of look, so as not to scare men from him in this way either; on
the contrary, his very roughness should be clean and attractive.
Kings and tyrants have armed guards wherewith to chastise certain
persons, though they themselves be evil. But to the Cynic conscience
gives this power--not arms and guards. When he knows that he has watched
and laboured on behalf of mankind: that sleep hath found him pure,
and left him purer still: that his thoughts have been the thought of
a Friend of the Gods--of a servant, yet one that hath a part in the
government of the Supreme God: that the words are ever on his lips:--
Lead me, O God, and thou, O Destiny!
as well as these:--
If this be God's will, so let it be!
Why should he not speak boldly unto his own brethren, unto his
children--in a word, unto all that are akin to him!
Does a Philosopher apply to people to come and hear him? does he not
rather, of his own nature, attract those that will be benefited
by him--like the sun that warms, the food that sustains them? What
Physician applies to men to come and be healed? (Though indeed I hear
that the Physicians at Rome do nowadays apply for patients--in my time
they were applied to.) I apply to you to come and hear that you are in
evil case; that what deserves your attention most in the last thing to
gain it; that you know not good from evil, and are in short a hapless
wretch; a fine way to apply! though unless the words of the Philosopher
affect you thus, speaker and speech are alike dead.
A Philosopher's school is a Surgery: pain, not pleasure, you should have
felt therein. For on entering none of you is whole. One has a shoulder
out of joint, another an abscess: a third suffers from an issue, a
fourth from pains in the head. And am I then to sit down and treat you
to pretty sentiments and empty flourishes, so that you may applaud me
and depart, with neither shoulder, nor head, nor issue, nor abscess a
whit the better for your visit? Is it then for this that young men are
to quit their homes, and leave parents, friends, kinsmen and substance
to mouth out Bravo to your empty phrases!
If any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of
himself alone. For God hath made all men to enjoy felicity and constancy
Shall we never wean ourselves--shall we never heed the teachings of
Philosophy (unless perchance they have been sounding in our ears like
and enchanter's drone):--
This World is one great City, and one if the substance whereof it is
fashioned: a certain period indeed there needs must be, while these give
place to those; some must perish for others to succeed; some move and
some abide: yet all is full of friends--first God, then Men, whom Nature
hath bound by ties of kindred each to each.
Nor did the hero weep and lament at leaving his children orphans. For he
knew that no man is an orphan, but it is the Father that careth for all
continually and for evermore. Not by mere report had he heard that
the Supreme God is the Father of men: seeing that he called Him Father
believing Him so to be, and in all that he did had ever his eyes fixed
upon Him. Wherefore in whatsoever place he was, there is was given him
to live happily.
Know you not that the thing is a warfare? one man's duty is to mount
guard, another must go out to reconnoitre, a third to battle; all cannot
be in one place, nor would it even be expedient. But you, instead of
executing you Commander's orders, complain if aught harsher than usual
is enjoined; not understanding to what condition you are bringing the
army, so far as in you lies. If all were to follow your example, none
would dig a trench, none would cast a rampart around the camp, none
would keep watch, or expose himself to danger; but all turn out useless
for the service of war. . . . Thus it is here also. Every life is a
warfare, and that long and various. You must fulfil a soldier's duty,
and obey each order at your commander's nod: aye, if it be possible,
divine what he would have done; for between that Command and this, there
is no comparison, either in might or in excellence.
Have you again forgotten? Know you not that a good man does nothing for
appearance' sake, but for the sake of having done right? . . .
"Is there no reward then?"
Reward! do you seek any greater reward for a good man than doing what is
right and just? Yet at the Great Games you look for nothing else; there
the victor's crown you deem enough. Seems it to you so small a thing and
worthless, to be a good man, and happy therein?
It befits thee not to be unhappy by reason of any, but rather to be
happy by reason of all men, and especially by reason of God, who formed
us to this end.
What, did Diogenes love no man, he that was so gentle, so true a friend
to men as cheerfully to endure such bodily hardships for the common
weal of all mankind? But how loved he them? As behoved a minister of the
Supreme God, alike caring for men and subject unto God.
I am by Nature made for my own good; not for my own evil.
Remind thyself that he whom thou lovest is mortal--that what thou lovest
is not thine own; it is given thee for the present, not irrevocably nor
for ever, but even as a fig or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season
of the year. . . .
"But these are words of evil omen.". . .
What, callest thou aught of evil omen save that which signifies some
evil thing? Cowardice is a word of evil omen, if thou wilt, and meanness
of spirit, and lamentation and mourning, and shamelessness. . . .
But do not, I pray thee, call of evil omen a word that is significant of
any natural thing:--as well call of evil omen the reaping of the corn;
for that means the destruction of the ears, though not of the World!--as
well say that the fall of the leaf is of evil omen; that the dried fig
should take the place of the green; that raisins should be made from
grapes. All these are changes from a former state into another; not
destruction, but an ordered economy, a fixed administration. Such
is leaving home, a change of small account; such is Death, a greater
change, from what now is, not to what is not, but to what is not now.
"Shall I then no longer be?"
Not so; thou wilt be; but something different, of which the World now
hath need. For thou too wert born not when thou chosest, but when the
World had need of thee.
Wherefore a good man and true, bearing in mind who he is and whence he
came and from whom he sprang, cares only how he may fill his post with
due discipline and obedience to God.
Wilt thou that I continue to live? Then will I live, as one that is
free and noble, as Thou wouldst have me. For Thou hast made me free from
hindrance in what appertaineth unto me. But hast Thou no further need
of me? I thank Thee! Up to this hour have I stayed for Thy sake and none
other's: and now in obedience to Thee I depart.
"How dost thou depart?"
Again I say, as Thou wouldst have me; as one that is free, as Thy
servant, as one whose ear is open unto what Thou dost enjoin, what Thou
Whatsoever place or post Thou assignest me, sooner will I die a thousand
deaths, as Socrates said, then depart it. And where wilt Thou have be
me? At Rome of Athens? At Thebes or on a desert island? Only remember me
there! Shouldst Thou send me where man cannot live as Nature would have
him, I will depart, not in disobedience to Thee, but as though Thou wert
sounding the signal for my retreat: I am not deserting Thee--far be that
from me! I only perceive that thou needest me no longer.
If you are in Gyaros, do not let your mind dwell upon life at Rome,
and all the pleasures it offered to you when living there, and all that
would attend your return. Rather be intent on this--how he that lives in
Gyaros may live in Gyaros like a man of spirit. And if you are at Rome,
do not let your mind dwell upon the life at Athens, but study only how
to live at Rome.
Finally, in the room of all other pleasures put this--the pleasure which
springs from conscious obedience to God.
To a good man there is no evil, either in life or death. And if God
supply not food, has He not, as a wise Commander, sounded the signal
for retreat and nothing more? I obey, I follow--speaking good of my
Commander, and praising His acts. For at His good pleasure I came; and I
depart when it pleases Him; and while I was yet alive that was my work,
to sing praises unto God!
Reflect that the chief source of all evils to Man, and of baseness and
cowardice, is not death, but the fear of death.
Against this fear then, I pray you, harden yourself; to this let all
your reasonings, your exercises, your reading tend. Then shall you know
that thus alone are men set free.
He is free who lives as he wishes to live; to whom none can do violence,
none hinder or compel; whose impulses are unimpeded, whose desires are
attain their purpose, who falls not into what he would avoid. Who then
would live in error?--None. Who would live deceived and prone to fall,
unjust, intemperate, in abject whining at his lot?--None. Then doth no
wicked man live as he would, and therefore neither is he free.
Thus do the more cautious of travellers act. The road is said to be
beset by robbers. The traveller will not venture alone, but awaits the
companionship on the road of an ambassador, a quaestor or a proconsul.
To him he attaches himself and thus passes by in safety. So doth the
wise man in the world. Many are the companies of robbers and tyrants,
many the storms, the straits, the losses of all a man holds dearest.
Whither shall he fall for refuge--how shall he pass by unassailed? What
companion on the road shall he await for protection? Such and such a
wealthy man, of consular rank? And how shall I be profited, if he
is stripped and falls to lamentation and weeping? And how if my
fellow-traveller himself turns upon me and robs me? What am I to do? I
will become a friend of Cęsar's! in his train none will do me wrong! In
the first place--O the indignities I must endure to win distinction! O
the multitude of hands there will be to rob me! And if I succeed, Cęsar
too is but a mortal. While should it come to pass that I offend him,
whither shall I flee from his presence? To the wilderness? And may not
fever await me there? What then is to be done? Cannot a fellow-traveller
be found that is honest and loyal, strong and secure against surprise?
Thus doth the wise man reason, considering that if he would pass through
in safety, he must attach himself unto God.
"How understandest thou attach himself to God?"
That what God wills, he should will also; that what God wills not,
neither should he will.
"How then may this come to pass?"
By considering the movements of God, and His administration.
And dost thou that hast received all from another's hands, repine and
blame the Giver, if He takes anything from thee? Why, who art thou, and
to what end comest thou here? was it not He that made the Light manifest
unto thee, that gave thee fellow-workers, and senses, and the power to
reason? And how brought He thee into the world? Was it not as one
born to die; as one bound to live out his earthly life in some small
tabernacle of flesh; to behold His administration, and for a little
while share with Him in the mighty march of this great Festival
Procession? Now therefore that thou hast beheld, while it was permitted
thee, the Solemn Feast and Assembly, wilt thou not cheerfully depart,
when He summons thee forth, with adoration and thanksgiving for what
thou hast seen and heard?--"Nay, but I would fain have stayed longer at
the Festival."--Ah, so would the mystics fain have the rites prolonged;
so perchance would the crowd at the Great Games fain behold more
wrestlers still. But the Solemn Assembly is over! Come forth, depart
with thanksgiving and modesty--give place to others that must come into
being even as thyself.
Why art thou thus insatiable? why thus unreasonable? why encumber
the world?--"Aye, but I fain would have my wife and children with me
too."--What, are they then thine, and not His that gave them--His that
made thee? Give up then that which is not thine own: yield it to One who
is better than thou. "Nay, but why did He bring one into the world on
these conditions?"--If it suits thee not, depart! He hath no need of a
spectator who finds fault with his lot! Them that will take part in the
Feast he needeth--that will lift their voices with the rest that men
may applaud the more, and exalt the Great Assembly in hymns and songs
of praise. But the wretched and the fearful He will not be displeased to
see absent from it: for when they were present, they did not behave
as at a Feast, nor fulfil their proper office; but moaned as though
in pain, and found fault with their fate, their fortune and their
companions; insensible to what had fallen to their lot, insensible to
the powers they had received for a very different purpose--the powers of
Magnanimity, Nobility of Heart, of Fortitude, or Freedom!
Art thou then free? a man may say. So help me heaven, I long and pray
for freedom! But I cannot look my masters boldly in the face; I still
value the poor body; I still set much store on its preservation whole
But I can point thee out a free man, that thou mayest be no more in
search of an example. Diogenes was free. How so? Not because he was of
free parentage (for that, indeed, was not the case), but because he was
himself free. He had cast away every handle whereby slavery might lay
hold of him to enslave him, nor was it possible for any to approach
and take hold of him to enslave him. All things sat loose upon him--all
things were to him attached by but slender ties. Hadst thou seized upon
his possessions, he would rather have let them go than have followed
thee for them--aye, had it been even a limb, or mayhap his whole body;
and in like manner, relatives, friends, and country. For he knew whence
they came--from whose hands and on what terms he had received them.
His true forefathers, the Gods, his true Country, he never would
have abandoned; nor would he have yielded to any man in obedience and
submission to the one nor in cheerfully dying for the other. For he
was ever mindful that everything that comes to pass has its source and
origin there; being indeed brought about for the weal of that his true
Country, and directed by Him in whose governance it is.
Ponder on this--on these convictions, on these words: fix thine eyes on
these examples, if thou wouldst be free, if thou hast thine heart set
upon the matter according to its worth. And what marvel if thou purchase
so great a thing at so great and high a price? For the sake of this that
men deem liberty, some hang themselves, others cast themselves down from
the rock; aye, time has been when whole cities came utterly to an end:
while for the sake of Freedom that is true, and sure, and unassailable,
dost thou grudge to God what He gave, when He claims it? Wilt thou not
study, as Plato saith, to endure, not death alone, but torture, exile,
stripes--in a word, to render up all that is not thine own? Else thou
wilt be a slave amid slaves, wert thou ten thousand times a consul; aye,
not a whit the less, though thou climb the Palace steps. And thou
shalt know how true the saying of Cleanthes, that though the words of
philosophers may run counter to the opinions of the world, yet have they
reason on their side.
Asked how a man should best grieve his enemy, Epictetus replied, "By
setting himself to live the noblest life himself."
I am free, I am a friend of God, ready to render Him willing obedience.
Of all else I may set store by nothing--neither by mine own body, nor
possessions, nor office, nor good report, nor, in a word, aught else
beside. For it is not His Will, that I should so set store by these
things. Had it been His pleasure, He would have placed my Good therein.
But now He hath not done so: therefore I cannot transgress one jot of
His commands. In everything hold fast to that which is thy Good--but to
all else (as far as is given thee) within the measure of Reason only,
contented with this alone. Else thou wilt meet with failure, ill
success, let and hindrance. These are the Laws ordained of God--these
are His Edicts; these a man should expound and interpret; to these
submit himself, not to the laws of Masurius and Cassius.
Remember that not the love of power and wealth sets us under the heel
of others, but even the love of tranquillity, of leisure, of change of
scene--of learning in general, it matters not what the outward thing
may be--to set store by it is to place thyself in subjection to another.
Where is the difference then between desiring to be a Senator, and
desiring not to be one: between thirsting for office and thirsting to
be quit of it? Where is the difference between crying, Woe is me, I know
not what to do, bound hand and foot as I am to my books so that I cannot
stir! and crying, Woe is me, I have not time to read! As though a book
were not as much an outward thing and independent of the will, as office
and power and the receptions of the great.
Or what reason hast thou (tell me) for desiring to read? For if thou
aim at nothing beyond the mere delight of it, or gaining some scrap of
knowledge, thou art but a poor, spiritless knave. But if thou desirest
to study to its proper end, what else is this than a life that flows on
tranquil and serene? And if thy reading secures thee not serenity, what
profits it?--"Nay, but it doth secure it," quoth he, "and that is why I
repine at being deprived of it."--And what serenity is this that lies at
the mercy of every passer-by? I say not at the mercy of the Emperor or
Emperor's favorite, but such as trembles at a raven's croak and piper's
din, a fever's touch or a thousand things of like sort! Whereas the
life serene has no more certain mark than this, that it ever moves with
constant unimpeded flow.
If thou hast put malice and evil speaking from thee, altogether, or
in some degree: if thou hast put away from thee rashness, foulness of
tongue, intemperance, sluggishness: if thou art not moved by what once
moved thee, or in like manner as thou once wert moved--then thou mayest
celebrate a daily festival, to-day because thou hast done well in this
manner, to-morrow in that. How much greater cause is here for offering
sacrifice, than if a man should become Consul or Prefect?
These things hast thou from thyself and from the Gods: only remember who
it is that giveth them--to whom and for what purpose they were given.
Feeding thy soul on thoughts like these, dost thou debate in what place
happiness awaits thee? in what place thou shalt do God's pleasure?
Are not the Gods nigh unto all places alike; see they not alike what
everywhere comes to pass?
To each man God hath granted this inward freedom. These are the
principles that in a house create love, in a city concord, among nations
peace, teaching a man gratitude towards God and cheerful confidence,
wherever he may be, in dealing with outward things that he knows are
neither his nor worth striving after.
If you seek Truth, you will not seek to gain a victory by every possible
means; and when you have found Truth, you need not fear being defeated.
What foolish talk is this? how can I any longer lay claim to right
principles, if I am not content with being what I am, but am all
aflutter about what I am supposed to be?
God hath made all things in the world, nay, the world itself, free from
hindrance and perfect, and its parts for the use of the whole. Not other
creature is capable of comprehending His administration thereof; but the
reasonable being Man possesses faculties for the consideration of all
these things--not only that he is himself a part, but what part he is,
and how it is meet that the parts should give place to the whole. Nor is
this all. Being naturally constituted noble, magnanimous, and free, he
sees that the things which surround him are of two kinds. Some are
free from hindrance and in the power of the will. Other are subject to
hindrance, and depend on the will of other men. If then he place his own
good, his own best interest, only in that which is free from hindrance
and in his power, he will be free, tranquil, happy, unharmed,
noble-hearted, and pious; giving thanks to all things unto God,
finding fault with nothing that comes to pass, laying no charge against
anything. Whereas if he place his good in outward things, depending not
on the will, he must perforce be subject to hindrance and restraint, the
slave of those that have power over the things he desires and fears;
he must perforce be impious, as deeming himself injured at the hands
of God; he must be unjust, as ever prone to claim more than his due; he
must perforce be of a mean and abject spirit.
Whom then shall I fear? the lords of the Bedchamber, lest they should
shut me out? If they find me desirous of entering in, let them shut me
out, if they will.
"Then why comest thou to the door?"
Because I think it meet and right, so long as the Play lasts, to take
"In what sense art thou then shut out?"
Because, unless I am admitted, it is not my will to enter: on the
contrary, my will is simply that which comes to pass. For I esteem what
God wills better than what I will. To Him will I cleave as His minister
and attendant; having the same movements, the same desires, in a word
the same Will as He. There is no such thing as being shut out for me,
but only for them that would force their way in.
But what says Socrates?--"One man finds pleasure in improving his land,
another his horses. My pleasure lies in seeing that I myself grow better
day by day."
The dress is suited to the craft; the craftsman takes his name from
the craft, not from the dress. For this reason Euphrates was right in
saying, "I long endeavoured to conceal my following the philosophic
life; and this profited me much. In the first place, I knew that what I
did aright, I did not for the sake of lookers-on, but for my own. I
ate aright--unto myself; I kept the even tenor of my walk, my glance
composed and serene--all unto myself and unto God. Then as I fought
alone, I was alone in peril. If I did anything amiss or shameful,
the cause of Philosophy was not in me endangered; nor did I wrong the
multitude by transgressing as a professed philosopher. Wherefore those
that knew not my purpose marvelled how it came about, that whilst all my
life and conversation was passed with philosophers without exception, I
was yet none myself. And what harm that the philosopher should be known
by his acts, instead of mere outward signs and symbols?"
First study to conceal what thou art; seek wisdom a little while unto
thyself. Thus grows the fruit; first, the seed must be buried in the
earth for a little space; there it must be hid and slowly grow, that it
may reach maturity. But if it produce the ear before the jointed stalk,
it is imperfect--a thing from the garden of Adonis. Such a sorry growth
art thou; thou hast blossomed too soon: the winter cold will wither thee
First of all, condemn the life thou art now leading: but when thou
hast condemned it, do not despair of thyself--be not like them of mean
spirit, who once they have yielded, abandon themselves entirely and
as it were allow the torrent to sweep them away. No; learn what the
wrestling masters do. Has the boy fallen? "Rise," they say, "wrestle
again, till thy strength come to thee." Even thus should it be with
thee. For know that there is nothing more tractable than the human soul.
It needs but to will, and the thing is done; the soul is set upon the
right path: as on the contrary it needs but to nod over the task, and
all is lost. For ruin and recovery alike are from within.
It is the critical moment that shows the man. So when the crisis is upon
you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you
with a rough and stalwart antagonist.--"To what end?" you ask. That you
may prove the victor at the Great Games. Yet without toil and sweat this
may not be!
If thou wouldst make progress, be content to seem foolish and void of
understanding with respect to outward things. Care not to be thought to
know anything. If any should make account of thee, distrust thyself.
Remember that in life thou shouldst order thy conduct as at a banquet.
Has any dish that is being served reached thee? Stretch forth thy hand
and help thyself modestly. Doth it pass thee by? Seek not to detain
it. Has it not yet come? Send not forth thy desire to meet it, but wait
until it reaches thee. Deal thus with children, thus with wife; thus
with office, thus with wealth--and one day thou wilt be meet to share
the Banquets of the Gods. But if thou dost not so much as touch that
which is placed before thee, but despisest it, then shalt thou not only
share the Banquets of the Gods, but their Empire also.
Remember that thou art an actor in a play, and of such sort as the
Author chooses, whether long or short. If it be his good pleasure to
assign thee the part of a beggar, a ruler, or a simple citizen, thine it
is to play it fitly. For thy business is to act the part assigned thee,
well: to choose it, is another's.
Keep death and exile daily before thine eyes, with all else that men
deem terrible, but more especially Death. Then wilt thou never think a
mean though, nor covet anything beyond measure.
As a mark is not set up in order to be missed, so neither is such a
thing as natural evil produced in the World.
Piety toward the Gods, to be sure, consists chiefly in thinking rightly
concerning them--that they are, and that they govern the Universe with
goodness and justice; and that thou thyself art appointed to obey them,
and to submit under all circumstances that arise; acquiescing cheerfully
in whatever may happen, sure it is brought to pass and accomplished by
the most Perfect Understanding. Thus thou wilt never find fault with the
Gods, nor charge them with neglecting thee.
Lose no time in setting before you a certain stamp of character and
behaviour both when by yourself and in company with others. Let silence
be your general rule; or say only what is necessary and in few words. We
shall, however, when occasion demands, enter into discourse sparingly.
avoiding common topics as gladiators, horse-races, athletes; and
the perpetual talk about food and drink. Above all avoid speaking of
persons, either in way of praise or blame, or comparison.
If you can, win over the conversation of your company to what it should
be by your own. But if you find yourself cut off without escape among
strangers and aliens, be silent.
Laughter should not be much, nor frequent, nor unrestrained.
Refuse altogether to take an oath if you can, if not, as far as may be.
Banquets of the unlearned and of them that are without, avoid. But
if you have occasion to take part in them, let not your attention be
relaxed for a moment, lest you slip after all into evil ways. For you
may rest assured that be a man ever so pure himself, he cannot escape
defilement if his associates are impure.
Take what relates to the body as far as the bare use warrants--as meat,
drink, raiment, house and servants. But all that makes for show and
If you are told that such an one speaks ill of you, make no defence
against what was said, but answer, He surely knew not my other faults,
else he would not have mentioned these only!
When you visit any of those in power, bethink yourself that you will not
find him in: that you may not be admitted: that the door may be shut in
your face: that he may not concern himself about you. If with all this,
it is your duty to go, bear what happens, and never say to yourself,
It was not worth the trouble! For that would smack of the foolish and
unlearned who suffer outward things to touch them.
In company avoid frequent and undue talk about your own actions and
dangers. However pleasant it may be to you to enlarge upon the risks
you have run, others may not find such pleasure in listening to your
adventures. Avoid provoking laughter also: it is a habit from which
one easily slides into the ways of the foolish, and apt to diminish the
respect which your neighbors feel for you. To border on coarse talk is
also dangerous. On such occasions, if a convenient opportunity offer,
rebuke the speaker. If not, at least by relapsing into silence,
colouring, and looking annoyed, show that you are displeased with the
When you have decided that a thing ought to be done, and are doing it,
never shun being seen doing it, even though the multitude should be
likely to judge the matter amiss. For if you are not acting rightly,
shun the act itself; if rightly, however, why fear misplaced censure?
It stamps a man of mean capacity to spend much time on the things of the
body, as to be long over bodily exercises, long over eating, long over
drinking, long over other bodily functions. Rather should these
things take the second place, while all your care is directed to the
Everything has two handles, one by which it may be borne, the other by
which it may not. If your brother sin against you lay not hold of it by
the handle of injustice, for by that it may not be borne: but rather by
this, that he is your brother, the comrade of your youth; and thus you
will lay hold on it so that it may be borne.
Never call yourself a Philosopher nor talk much among the unlearned
about Principles, but do that which follows from them. Thus at a
banquet, do not discuss how people ought to eat; but eat as you ought.
Remember that Socrates thus entirely avoided ostentation. Men would come
to him desiring to be recommended to philosophers, and he would conduct
them thither himself--so well did he bear being overlooked. Accordingly
if any talk concerning principles should arise among the unlearned, be
you for the most part silent. For you run great risk of spewing up what
you have ill digested. And when a man tells you that you know nothing
and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun
When you have brought yourself to supply the needs of the body at small
cost, do not pique yourself on that, nor if you drink only water, keep
saying on each occasion, I drink water! And if you ever want to practise
endurance and toil, do so unto yourself and not unto others--do not
When a man prides himself on being able to understand and interpret the
writings of Chrysippus, say to yourself:--
If Chrysippus had not written obscurely, this fellow would have had
nothing to be proud of. But what is it that I desire? To understand
Nature, and to follow her! Accordingly I ask who is the Interpreter.
On hearing that it is Chrysippus, I go to him. But it seems I do not
understand what he wrote. So I seek one to interpret that. So far there
is nothing to pride myself on. But when I have found my interpreter,
what remains is to put in practice his instructions. This itself is the
only thing to be proud of. But if I admire the interpretation and that
alone, what else have I turned out but a mere commentator instead of
a lover of wisdom?--except indeed that I happen to be interpreting
Chrysippus instead of Homer. So when any one says to me, Prithee, read
me Chrysippus, I am more inclined to blush, when I cannot show my deeds
to be in harmony and accordance with his sayings.
At feasts, remember that you are entertaining two guests, body and soul.
What you give to the body, you presently lose; what you give to the
soul, you keep for ever.
At meals, see to it that those who serve be not more in number than
those who are served. It is absurd for a crowd of persons to be dancing
attendance on half a dozen chairs.
It is best to share with your attendants what is going forward, both in
the labour of preparation and in the enjoyment of the feast itself. If
such a thing be difficult at the time, recollect that you who are
not weary are being served by those that are; you who are eating and
drinking by those who do neither; you who are talking by those who are
silent; you who are at ease by those who are under constraint. Thus no
sudden wrath will betray you into unreasonable conduct, nor will you
behave harshly by irritating another.
When Xanthippe was chiding Socrates for making scanty preparation for
entertaining his friends, he answered:--"If they are friends of ours
they will not care for that; if they are not, we shall care nothing for
Asked, Who is the rich man? Epictetus replied, "He who is content."
Favorinus tells us how Epictetus would also say that there were two
faults far graver and fouler than any others--inability to bear, and
inability to forbear, when we neither patiently bear the blows that
must be borne, nor abstain from the things and the pleasures we ought to
abstain from. "So," he went on, "if a man will only have these two words
at heart, and heed them carefully by ruling and watching over himself,
he will for the most part fall into no sin, and his life will be
tranquil and serene." He meant the words ą ć --"Bear and Forbear."
On all occasions these thoughts should be at hand:--
Lead me, O God, and Thou, O Destiny
Be what it may the goal appointed me,
Bravely I'll follow; nay, and if I would not,
I'd prove a coward, yet must follow still!
Who to Necessity doth bow aright,
Is learn'd in wisdom and the things of God.
Crito, if this be God's will, so let it be. As for me,
Anytus and Meletus can indeed put me to death, but injure me,
We shall then be like Socrates, when we can indite hymns of praise to
the Gods in prison.
It is hard to combine and unite these two qualities, the carefulness
of one who is affected by circumstances, and the intrepidity of one
who heeds them not. But it is not impossible: else were happiness also
impossible. We should act as we do in seafaring.
"What can I do?"--Choose the master, the crew, the day, the opportunity.
Then comes a sudden storm. What matters it to me? my part has been fully
done. The matter is in the hands of another--the Master of the ship.
The ship is foundering. What then have I to do? I do the only thing
that remains to me--to be drowned without fear, without a cry, without
upbraiding God, but knowing that what has been born must likewise
perish. For I am not Eternity, but a human being--a part of the whole,
as an hour is part of the day. I must come like the hour, and like the
hour must pass!
And now we are sending you to Rome to spy out the land; but none send
a coward as such a spy, that, if he hear but a noise and see a shadow
moving anywhere, loses his wits and comes flying to say, The enemy are
So if you go now, and come and tell us: "Everything at Rome is terrible:
Death is terrible, Exile is terrible, Slander is terrible, Want is
terrible; fly, comrades! the enemy are upon us!" we shall reply, Get you
gone, and prophesy to yourself! we have but erred in sending such a spy
as you. Diogenes, who was sent as a spy long before you, brought us back
another report than this. He says that Death is no evil; for it need not
even bring shame with it. He says that Fame is but the empty noise of
madmen. And what report did this spy bring us of Pain, what of Pleasure,
what of Want? That to be clothed in sackcloth is better than any purple
robe; that sleeping on the bare ground is the softest couch; and in
proof of each assertion he points to his own courage, constancy, and
freedom; to his own healthy and muscular frame. "There is no enemy
near," he cries, "all is perfect peace!"
If a man has this peace--not the peace proclaimed by Cęsar (how indeed
should he have it to proclaim?), nay, but the peace proclaimed by God
through reason, will not that suffice him when alone, when he beholds
and reflects:--Now can no evil happen unto me; for me there is no
robber, for me no earthquake; all things are full of peace, full of
tranquillity; neither highway nor city nor gathering of men, neither
neighbor nor comrade can do me hurt. Another supplies my food, whose
care it is; another my raiment; another hath given me perceptions of
sense and primary conceptions. And when He supplies my necessities no
more, it is that He is sounding the retreat, that He hath opened the
door, and is saying to thee, Come!--Wither? To nought that thou needest
fear, but to the friendly kindred elements whence thou didst spring.
Whatsoever of fire is in thee, unto fire shall return; whatsoever of
earth, unto earth; of spirit, unto spirit; of water, unto water. There
is no Hades, no fabled rivers of Sighs, of Lamentation, or of Fire: but
all things are full of Beings spiritual and divine. With thoughts like
these, beholding the Sun, Moon, and Stars, enjoying earth and sea, a man
is neither helpless nor alone!
What wouldst thou be found doing when overtaken by Death? If I might
choose, I would be found doing some deed of true humanity, of wide
import, beneficent and noble. But if I may not be found engaged in aught
so lofty, let me hope at least for this--what none may hinder, what is
surely in my power--that I may be found raising up in myself that which
had fallen; learning to deal more wisely with the things of sense;
working out my own tranquillity, and thus rendering that which is its
due to every relation of life. . . .
If death surprise me thus employed, it is enough if I can stretch forth
my hands to God and say, "The faculties which I received at Thy hands
for apprehending this thine Administration, I have not neglected. As far
as in me lay, I have done Thee no dishonour. Behold how I have used the
senses, the primary conceptions which Thous gavest me. Have I ever laid
anything to Thy charge? Have I ever murmured at aught that came to pass,
or wished it otherwise? Have I in anything transgressed the relations
of life? For that Thou didst beget me, I thank Thee for that Thou hast
given: for the time during which I have used the things that were Thine,
it suffices me. Take them back and place them wherever Thou wilt! They
were all Thine, and Thou gavest them me."--If a man depart thus minded,
is it not enough? What life is fairer and more noble, what end happier
Fragments Attributed to Epictetus
A life entangled with Fortune is like a torrent. It is turbulent
and muddy; hard to pass and masterful of mood: noisy and of brief
The soul that companies with Virtue is like an ever-flowing source. It
is a pure, clear, and wholesome draught; sweet, rich, and generous of
its store; that injures not, neither destroys.
It is a shame that one who sweetens his drink with the gifts of the bee,
should embitter God's gift Reason with vice.
Crows pick out the eyes of the dead, when the dead have no longer need
of them; but flatterers mar the soul of the living, and her eyes they
Keep neither a blunt knife nor an ill-disciplined looseness of tongue.
Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from
others twice as much as we speak.
Do not give sentence in another tribunal till you have been yourself
judged in the tribunal of Justice.
If is shameful for a Judge to be judged by others.
Give me by all means the shorter and nobler life, instead of one that is
longer but of less account!
Freedom is the name of virtue: Slavery, of vice. . . . None is a slave
whose acts are free.
Of pleasures, those which occur most rarely give the most delight.
Exceed due measure, and the most delightful things become the least
The anger of an ape--the threat of a flatterer:--these deserve equal
Chastise thy passions that they avenge not themselves upon thee.
No man is free who is not master of himself.
A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope.
Fortify thyself with contentment: that is an impregnable stronghold.
No man who is a lover of money, of pleasure, of glory, is likewise a
lover of Men; but only he that is a lover of whatsoever things are fair
Think of God more often than thou breathest.
Choose the life that is noblest, for custom can make it sweet to thee.
Let thy speech of God be renewed day by day, aye, rather than thy meat
Even as the Sun doth not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but
shines forth and is welcomed by all: so thou also wait not for clapping
of hands and shouts and praise to do thy duty; nay, do good of thine own
accord, and thou wilt be loved like the Sun.
Let no man think that he is loved by any who loveth none.
If thou rememberest that God standeth by to behold and visit all that
thou doest; whether in the body or in the soul, thou surely wilt not err
in any prayer or deed; and thou shalt have God to dwell with thee.
Note.--Schweighüser's great edition collects 181 fragments attributed
to Epictetus, of which but a few are certainly genuine. Some (as xxi.,
xxiv., above) bear the stamp of Pythagorean origin; others, though
changed in form, may well be based upon Epictetean sayings. Most have
been preserved in the Anthology of John of Stobi (Stobęus), a Byzantine
collector, of whom scarcely anything is known but that he probably wrote
towards the end of the fifth century, and made his vast body of
extracts from more than five hundred authors for his son's use. The
best examination of the authenticity of the Fragments is Quaestiones
Epicteteę, by R. Asmus, 1888. The above selection includes some of
doubtful origin but intrinsic interest.--Crossley.
The Hymn of Cleanthes
Chiefest glory of deathless Gods, Almighty for ever,
Sovereign of Nature that rulest by law, what Name shall we
Blessed be Thou! for on Thee should call all things that are
For that we are Thine offspring; nay, all that in myriad motion
Lives for its day on the earth bears one impress--Thy
Wherefore my song is of Thee, and I hymn thy power for ever.
Lo, the vast orb of the Worlds, round the Earth evermore as it
Feels Thee its Ruler and Guide, and owns Thy lordship rejoicing.
Aye, for Thy conquering hands have a servant of living fire--
Sharp is the bolt!--where it falls, Nature shrinks at the shock
and doth shudder.
Thus Thou directest the Word universal that pulses through all
Mingling its life with Lights that are great and Lights that
E'en as beseemeth its birth, High King through ages unending.
Nought is done that is done without Thee in the earth or the waters
Or in the heights of heaven, save the deed of the fool and the
Thou canst make rough things smooth; at Thy voice, lo, jarring
Moveth to music, and Love is born where hatred abounded.
Thus hast Thou fitted alike things good and things evil together,
That over all might reign one Reason, supreme and eternal;
Though thereunto the hearts of the wicked be hardened and
Woe unto them!--for while ever their hands are grasping at
Blind are their eyes, yea, stopped are their ears to God's Law
Calling through wise disobedience to live the life that is noble.
This they mark not, but heedless of right, turn each to his
Here, a heart fired with ambition, in strife and straining
There, thrusting honour aside, fast set upon getting and gaining;
Others again given over to lusts and dissolute softness,
Working never God's Law, but that which wareth upon it.
Nay, but, O Giver of all things good, whose home is the dark cloud,
Thou that wields Heaven's bolt, save men from their
Scatter its night from their souls, and grant them to come to
Wherewithal, sistered with Justice, Thou rulest and governest
That we, honoured by Thee, may requite Thee with worship and
Evermore praising thy works, as is meet for men that shall perish;
Seeing that none, be he mortal or God, hath privilege nobler
Than without stint, without stay, to extol Thy Law universal.
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